WARNING SPOILERS !!!
I have been running Starfall for over twenty years. As you may know, I have used many systems to run the game. Lately, I have discovered some of my old notes that I scanned into the computer before throwing them away (Yes I threw them away) and moved to Australia. Part of this is nostalgic. Discovering the long-forgotten NPCs, Equipment, and backstories. Another part is a measurement of how far I have grown as a gamemaster and Storyteller over the years.
Some of my NPCs at the time were just a pile of stats just to give the players something to shoot at. Some were more complex friends with overly winded backstories. Part of the problem of going through all these notes is that my note taking skills back then were also very limited.
Looking at the notes I started to think what would happen if I put these NPCs into the current Starfall RPG campaign. Would the NPCs have enough depth of character to be interesting?
The answer is YES.. if I flesh them out more. After all, I am running a story with rules, not a tactical simulation. (Though we are talking about tabletop tactics at some point)
So most of you already know by reading the short story Chicken Soup almost all the robots and AI are totally insane and very powerful in comparison to the tech used by the players. Nova in my first campaign was a hero. He was a robot assigned to assist earth scientists going through a wormhole. His (Yes the robot is a he ... as in its brain patterns were originally copied from a human male ) was a Non-combat science assistant database. The personality was more of a British Buttler. He also was the ship's psychologist.
So looking at this NPC .. I started to ask some questions.
-What would happen if he survived the Fall?
-How would his insanity take form?
-How can I make this a badass villain?
-What would the motivations an insane robot have?
The Answer is ... The Church!
Many of you know that the church of the illumination is the bad guys in this world. They feel that old tech is the source of all the evil. However, they are also consumed by acquiring power over the universe. What would happen if they discovered one of these working Robots who had all of the earth understanding of how the human brain works. What would happen if he could offer people of power almost godlike tech in exchange for favors?
We have a Deamon in charge of one of the orders of the church. NOVA-R71E has worked his way through the ranks of the church and is now the leader of the order of the ancient light (The Research division of the church ) He was the creator if the Paladin power armor (more like remembered how to build them) and is obsessed with acquiring old tech.
Motivations? Why would he do this?
To find a way to update his firmware! Thinking that this AI is insane he would have found a way to remove his "Non-combat" Programming but would still have bits in his firmware that forces him to obey a superior (In this case the grand profit). So now we have a very powerful robot who has been performing upgrades to itself but is required to obey regardless if he likes it or not.
Powers and abilities
Like all Villans there needs to be a reason to fear this NPC .. otherwise, its own organization who considers him pure evil (not fall off the mark) would have destroyed him. From a Gamemaster standpoint, the Players should never meet him. The reason for this is that you do not want this NPC to be killed accidentally or cause a TPK (Total Party KILL) because the players did not listen to the advice "Are you sure". As any experienced Gamemaster will tell you .. giving stats to a big bad is a bad idea just don't.
-Force fields. This alone would be enough for the world of Starfall to think he was a God .. or a Deamon.
-Godlike intelligence having the power to outsmart a G'dar would give anyone an advantage
-Immortal he is older than the previous empire there has got to be some amazing knowledge there somewhere.
-Pre-Fall weapons. Now here is where things get scary. Think about what kind of weapons he would have built into his pinky.
-The Backing of the Grand Profit
-The Reputation of being a demon. This is extra powerful. I have seen real-life people terrified of someone just because they hear a roomer that they were a devil worshiper. And there is very good evidence to prove the devil does not exist. What would happen if the demons were real (or in this case made by humans) and he actually was one? oooooh scary
What would the disadvantages be?
One of the things I hate about fiction is that it's too easy to make a supervillain exactly that "super". Having no flaws, nothing beyond having some kickass stats. So how do I fix this?
-He has to work within the laws of the Church. This is a big one. a Robot must have rules.
-- Cannot harm a true believer except in self-defense.
-Must obey commands from the Grand Profit
-Has memory flashbacks of his service of humankind. This would be fun to write into stories where NOVA forgets that he is not trying to rise to power. This might have moments of compassion. Or maybe he forgets that he is not still on the exploration craft from earth.
-He is hated by his peers. Have you ever worked in an office where your peer is causing problems for you? I'm thinking this is going to be a big one. I am already thinking that Targon wells from Starfall Episode one would hate him deeply.
-He would be obsessed with tech over political or strategic advantage. This is not necessarily a disadvantage as when you live forever sometimes you are willing to have some of your short-term goals put on the back burner for some time. This might look like a tactical retreat for no reason.
-Batshit crazy I'm not talking about the Joker or a chaos kind of way (that is done to death in RPGs and comics) but the kind of crazy that is a little more subtle. like talking to himself in another language. Or perhaps making orders that make absolutely no sense but not in a comedic way. Something that would make the peers uneasy around him and want him removed but not enough to actually do anything about it. (I have a real life coworker like that)
Time To update the artwork
As you can see from my artwork from 1993 it was done with pencil on graph paper (Arnt all good RPGs start that way) I have grown as an artist and so has my tool. So after I publish Episode 6 I'm going to start working on updating the art using some drawing programs. Also this artwork was done when he was a hero ... what would the Villan look like?